Living with bipolar disorder can result in a shorter life span if left unmanaged. Research shows that physical illness plays a big role.

Older man with bipolar disorder enjoying his long lifeShare on Pinterest
Flashpop/Getty Images

If you’re living with bipolar disorder, you know firsthand how much it can interfere with your quality of life. Cyclical periods of mania or mania and depression can make it hard to maintain a healthy, stable lifestyle.

Aside from quality of life, mental health conditions like bipolar disorder could reduce overall life span. Various factors contribute to a shorter life span and mainly involve physical health.

Seeing a healthcare professional regularly is important to ensure you live as many years of quality life as possible. You can live a healthier life with a care plan right for you.

Experts have established that living with any mental health condition reduces your life expectancy by anywhere from 7–10 years. The life expectancy for someone with bipolar disorder is approximately 67 years old.

A 2021 study researched the effect of bipolar disorder on longevity and found that:

  • risk of death is 2.6 times greater than the general population
  • the average life span is between 8–12 years shorter than the general population
  • the age of diagnosis influences life expectancy

If you were diagnosed with bipolar disorder at a young age, this generally predicts a shorter overall life span. Though, it does depend on your lifestyle and individual contributing factors, which can be improved.

Bipolar disorder can take a toll on your mental health and your physical health. Physical illnesses associated with bipolar disorder are common and considered major contributors to reduced life expectancy.

According to a 2021 study, bipolar disorder is associated with higher rates of:

The prevention and management of cardiovascular disease are particularly important, according to a 2015 study. For those living with bipolar disorder, the chances of developing and experiencing a heart disease-related death are significantly higher than the general population.

This can be due to a cluster of symptoms referred to as metabolic syndrome, which is more prevalent in those living with bipolar disorder. Metabolic syndrome is considered a gateway to both type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Signs of metabolic disorder can include:

  • inflammation
  • blood sugar imbalances
  • high blood pressure
  • high triglyceride levels (a measure of blood fats)
  • obesity

Another common cause of reduced life span is suicide. A large 2014 study found that suicide rates are up to 10 times higher for those with a mental health condition like bipolar disorder. The rate could, however, be as much as 30 times higher than the general population, according to a 2019 study.

If you’re considering acting on suicidal thoughts, please seek professional support immediately.

Calling or texting a crisis helpline will connect you with a trained counselor 24/7, any day of the year, completely free of charge:

Was this helpful?

The development of physical illness is made worse by a lack of physical health monitoring and treatment. If you’re living with bipolar disorder, frequent health assessments could help you manage your physical health and prevent illness.

Lifestyle changes

The World Health Organization (WHO) identifies several key lifestyle factors that play a major role in the prevention of cardiovascular disease:

Regular check-ups

Getting a health assessment regularly serves several important purposes. Aside from medication management, check-ups can also provide the following benefits:

Suicide prevention

Suicide risk has been associated with many different factors in bipolar disorder. According to a 2021 study, some of these include:

Researchers noted that medications commonly prescribed for bipolar disorder could play a role in suicide risk. If you take medication, the prescriptions must work well for you. Usually, this comes down to the type and dose of medication, which can be changed if needed.

Although the research shows that you’re more likely to live a shorter life with bipolar disorder, it also reveals positive news. Contributing factors to a shorter life span are preventable.

Focusing on prevention is the key, and getting help when you need it can open the door to a longer life.

You can visit Psych Central’s bipolar disorder resource hub to learn more about what you can do to live well.